He was speaking at the WP Youth Wing’s monthly Youth Hangouts sessions.
One of the issues Mr Giam touched on was the touchy issue of potential changes to the criteria for qualification of the elected presidency.
Besides upping the criteria to the point where someone like US president Barack Obama wouldn’t have qualified, the government has raised the possibility that the election might be reserved for candidates from a minority race only.
This is what Mr Giam said:
“Had a very exciting discussion on Sunday on the proposed changes to the Elected Presidency scheme with a group of young people – poly and uni students and recent grads – at WP Youth Wing’s monthly “Youth Hangouts”. Participants shared their frank yet sensible views on this hot button issue.
Some felt that having a president who is of a minority race is not going to solve the problem of marginalisation and racism. Better to enact anti-discrimination laws instead, some said. Most agreed that Singaporeans judge candidates mainly by their party affiliation, character and proven ability, rather than just their race. Some were sceptical about the ability of the president to be a real check on the government, with some pointing to how a presidential veto can be overridden by Parliament. Others felt that if a presidential candidate cannot be freely nominated (due to overly stringent qualification criteria), then it would be better to just have a ceremonial president chosen by Parliament, who would in any case end up a more unifying national figure than someone who has to go through the rough and tumble of an election.
Beyond just this issue, I shared with my young friends that it is important that they read beyond news reports and government statements, to assess the political motivations behind policy changes, and maintain a healthy scepticism about what politicians – regardless of party affiliation – say. This is what is necessary for Singaporeans to make more educated decisions on issues that affect our nation’s future. I’m glad to see more youths prepared to engage in robust discussions on these weighty issues.”